A veteran Chicago police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man Jan. 2 has been charged with first-degree murder, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Lowell Houser, 57, was charged with one count of first-degree murder. Houser, an officer assigned to the mass transit unit, fatally shot Jose Nieves while off duty, police said. Police have released few details on what led to the shooting, other than to say at the time an “altercation” between the men escalated, and the officer shot him several times.
Houser joined the police department about 28 years ago. His disciplinary history includes five-day suspensions for an off-duty domestic altercation in 2001 and a medical-roll violation in 2006. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said: “I have a lot more questions than I do answers at this time.” Johnson said Houser knew Nieves from another “confrontation a few weeks ago.” Dean Angelo, Jr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, said the decision to bring murder charges against an officer, less than a week after the release of the Department of Justice’s scathing report on Chicago police practices was bound to have a negative impact on the union’s morale. “This is another situation that we’re going to be faced with dealing with, and it is another situation that every officer that’s out there right now in a squad car is going to be thinking about,” Angelo said.